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Brew Your Own Hard Cider

September 8, 2012 4 comments

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Fall is a few weeks away and I have a fun and easy brewing project that’s perfect for this time of year.  It requires 3 ingredients, and about 15 minutes to mix and prep for fermentation.  In just 2 weeks, you’ll have delicious homemade hard cider to share with your family and friends.

Some important notes before you begin:

  1. Use apple cider with NO preservatives.  Preservatives will kill the yeast.
  2. If apple juice is the only ingredient, then you are good go.  Cloudy or unfiltered is good, and the fresher the better since it may contain wild yeast that will add to the flavor of your finished product.
  3. Yeast can be purchased at your local homebrew store or online from homebrew sites like Maryland Homebrew or Northern Brewer.
  4. This recipe makes a 5 gallon batch.  You can make smaller batches – use 1 cup of sugar per 1 gallon of cider.  However, you will need to adjust the amount of yeast required.
  5. Alcohol content will range from 5-7 ABVs.  Likely closer to 7 ABVs.  For big kiddies only!
    F…
  6. For best results, consider investing in some standard brewing equipment, especially if you plan to make this recipe again and again.  A standard carboy, a rubber stopper, an airlock (to keep oxygen out), a funnel, and a bottle of santizer.  All of these things can be purchased at your favorite homebrew store.
    ……
  7. Lastly, as with beer brewing, sanitation is of prime importance.  All equipment, including bottles or carboy and anything that touches the inside of the fermenting container should be sterilized or sanitized to ensure no unwanted bacteria mucks up your cider.  You can do this by adding an ounce of sanitizing liquid to a bucket and to the carboy and filling it with cold water.  Then soak all equipment several minutes (3-5) or spray it on with a spray bottle.  You can also boil or put in dish washer immediately beforehand to sterilize.  This step alone can make all the difference between success and disaster.

Homebrewed Hard Cider

Ingredients

  • 5 gallons apple cider, no preservatives – room temperature
  • 5 cups white granulated sugar
  • 1 vial yeast – room temperature
    Champagne yeast is good for drier cider, or use a British Ale Yeast for sweeter cider.

Equipment

  • 1 5-gallon carboy, or 5 gallon container with airtight lid.  Sanitize or sterilize well before use!
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  • 1 large funnel (santized!)
  • 1 airtight stopper for carboy, or lids or caps for other containers (santized!)
  • 1 airlock (if using carboy) (sanitized!)
  • 1 cup measuring cup (santized!)

Instructions

  • Insert funnel into top of carboy.
  • Pour in 5 cups of sugar (add sugar before cider so it doesn’t stick in the funnel).
  • Pour in 1 gallon of cider.
  • Remove the funnel, lift the carboy, and swish it around really good to dissolve the sugar, set it down for a minute, then lift and swish again to ensure sugar is dissolved.
  • Add remaining 4 gallons of cider.
  • Rock the carboy to swish and mix the liquid.
  • Shake yeast well and add contents to cider.
  • Rock the carboy to swish and mix yeast with the cider and also to add lots of air into the liquid.  Do this for at least 1 minute to ensure all is well incorporated.
  • Add stopper and airlock (with water added, per instructions) to top of carboy.
  • Move carboy to a dark and cool location with consistent temperature, like a basement or crawl space.  Leave it for 2 weeks.
  • Check regularly to ensure the yeast are active and that gas is not building up too much in the carboy.  This could cause a bit of an explosion if left unattended.

Finished cider can be kegged and force carbonated, or bottled with a bit of sugar to naturally carbonate the cider.  Or drink it uncarbonated.

No matter how you drink it, it will be delicious and it will be brewed by you!

I’ll check back in two weeks with an update.  In the meantime, have you made hard cider before?  Tell us how it turned out and let us know if you have any advice.  If this if your first time, come back and let us know how your cider turned out.   And of course, send questions and comments.

There are also some great videos on YouTube (Check out HomeBrewRecipes) for more info and ideas.

Cheers beers!

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Cozy Up with a Mug of Mulled Beer

December 10, 2011 8 comments

The holidays and cold weather call for warm spirits and cozying by the fire.  Mulled wine, irish coffees, spiced ciders are all well and good, but have you ever considered mulling beer?  Indeed…why not?

This idea requires an open mind, an adventurous spirit, and the courage to risk 12 oz of perfectly good beer.  So rather than endure reader backlash in case this recipe is a total disaster, I put my own beer on the line (actually, it’s the hubster’s subpar scotch ale which has been sitting in the keg since summer).

The recipe came from wikiHow, it’s been edited by almost a dozen contributors and has evolved substantially over the past 3 years.  So most of the kinks should have been worked out.  It’s also been visited by over 61,000 readers, and the countless comments of those who’ve tried it are very positive.  So here we go…

How to Make Mulled Beer

Posted on wikiHow at http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Mulled-Beer – Edited byGiM and 11 others

Ingredients at the ready!

Ingredients

  • 12-16 oz decent-quality beer (the contents of your average bottle or can of beer)
  • 1 pinch ground ginger, or 1 slice (sometimes called “coins”) of ginger 1/4″ long
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼-1/2 tsp cinnamon, or 1″ section of a cinnamon stick
  • 1 pinch ground cloves or 2-5 whole cloves
  • 2 tsp (10 grams) sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) honey

Temper the egg and stir rapidly as you slowly add the egg yolk.

Strain the floaties using a fine mesh strainer.

Instructions

  • Put beer in a small saucepan and add spices.
  • Heat beer and spices in a small saucepan on low to medium-low heat. If the beer begins to boil, turn down the heat. The beer will begin to foam, but should subside after a minute or two.
  • Separate the egg white from the egg yolk and put in a small bowl. This recipe only uses the egg yolk.
  • Add two teaspoons of sugar to the egg yolk.
  • Beat the sugar and yolk with a whisk or fork until it becomes nearly white (it’s the hardest part!).
  • Optional but recommended – Temper the yolk mixture. To prevent “scrambling” the egg yolk mixture by the heat of the beer, you can temper the mixture by adding 1-2 tablespoon(s) of the hot beer to the yolk mixture very slowly and mixing thoroughly as the egg is being added.
  • Add the yolk mixture slowly to the warm beer and continue to heat for 5 minutes. Stir gently.
  • Add honey to taste.
  • Use a strainer (double mesh or cheese cloth) to sieve out the spices and any egg particles that may have formed.
  • Pour into steins or mugs and enjoy!

Tips and Variations

  • The types and amounts of spices listed above should be treated as a guideline. If you know you like lots of ginger, add more. If you’re more of a cinnamon fan, use more of that. Remember, add only a small amount at first. You can always add more spices, but you can’t remove them once they’ve been added.
  • Other ideas for spices may include orange peel, pieces of apple, a drop or two of vanilla or almond extract, different flavors of honey.
  • Experiment with different kinds of beer. Lagers, ales, stouts and IPAs will all yield different (and possibly tasty) results.

Surprise, surprise!  The results were actually very tasty.   Our final drink was creamy and coffee-like in appearance and the aroma reminded me of cinnamon-spiced applesauce.  There was no carbonation left, or alcohol for that matter – assuming it turned out as intended.  The drink was warm, sweet and spicy with a hint of malt flavor and a mild bitter aftertaste.  Something different to try on a cold winter’s day.  In fact, whip up a batch in the crock pot for your next holiday bash.  It’s a great way to use up that substandard beer that’s been sitting around the house since June, and no doubt it will be the talk of the party.  Oh, and do come back and share your comments!

Happy Holidays and Cheers Beers!

Beer Mixology: Fruitin’ Up the Beer

Beer Fruitology….the artful science of beer and fruit compatibility. Ok, not really a science, but more of a research project that I’ve been playing around with this summer.

Ah yes, I hear the “eews” and the “icks” already.  I agree, this experiment is not for the finicky, and finicky I am not. I am however, a huge lover of fruit, and I consider myself a bit of a beer mixologist.  Since I’ve already waved my freaky beer mixin’ flag with  Waterweizen and Beersicles posts, what the heck, I’ll wave it a little higher and share my fetish for mixing fruit and beer.  Many beers have fruity character anyway…whether they’re made with fruit or not, so it’s really not as far fetched as it sounds.  And I’ve seen a number of bars throw a spoon full of somethin’ somethin’ into a pint of beer…stranger things than fruit, I assure you.  So fruit, my fun beer drinking friends, is just the beginning my beer mixology experiments!

Now, I do give these mixes some thought beforehand, and some are definitely better than others.  I haven’t tried anything with bananas yet, perhaps a nice banana orange clovey heffeweizen would be interesting.  Hmmm, I’ll save that for the winter project.  But I have discovered a few interesting combos. Some look prettier than they taste, and some I thought were exceptionally (even surprisingly) good.

So without further adieu, here’s a visual review of the summer’s beer fruitology findings…


Hubster’s Hopricot Homebrew with Fresh Grapefruit

The beer is a delicious fruity hoppy IPA with great citrus character and apricots thrown in during fermentation. The grapefruit pair perfectly with this beer. The beer brought out the sweetness in the fruit, and the fruit brought out the citrusy hopiness in the beer. A surprising favorite among my research subjects, regardless of its fleshy appearance.


Kiwi Berliner Weiss

Berliner Weiss has to be one on the best light summer beers (another homebrew). Mildly sour, light, crisp, and of course, fruity.  It lends itself so well to beer fruitology.  You can throw just about any kind of fruit into this beer and it’ll work.  Some just work better than others.  The kiwi in this mix isn’t overly sweet or sour and has a very distinct flavor that I wish had blended more with the beer. The flavors worked, but the kiwi was too crunchy and didn’t absorb the liquid, so the mixology part didn’t really happen. If it had, then I think this would’ve been a good combo.  It does make for an interesting photo.


American Strawberry IPA

Sliced strawberries in a full bodied, fruity American IPA homebrew. It looks pretty, but I didn’t get any wow flavor factor from this combo. Again, very separate flavors that remained separate throughout the drink – they weren’t complementary, but they didn’t clash either.  I’m leaning that some fruits might be better crushed first.  Strawberries are one of them. However, IPAs definitely work best with citrus.  Lancaster Brewing Company’s Strawberry Wheat is perhaps an obvious choice for this fruity combo.  But I tend to steer away from the obvious in search of happy accidents.  Much more fun that way.


Blueberry Weizenbock

I used the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Weizenbock and added a nice scoop of fresh blueberries.  You see this done at a lot at of bars that serve blueberry beers.  But this is a different combo that really works well.  A great beer on its own, the Weizenbock has a nice heavier, malty fruitiness that’s complemented by the more complex, sweet and tart flavor of the blueberries.  Next time I drink this beer, I’ll be sure to have blueberries on hand.

                             

Sweet Bumbleberry Berliner Weiss

Traditionally, sweet woodruff syrup is added to Berliner Weiss’.  Sweet woodruff actually imparts a sweet Lucky Charms marshmallow flavor to the beer.  However, Northern Brewer recommends the addition of blackberry syrup to their Berliner Weiss homebrew kit. I didn’t have blackberries available, but I did have frozen mixed berries on hand. So I made a bumble berry simple syrup.  I suspect you can use this simple syrup recipe for virtually any kind of fruit.

Fruity Simple Syrup – In a small saucepan I brought to a boil equal parts water, sugar, and berries.  Blend the mixture smooth, then strain and discard the seeds and skins.  Allow to cool some, then add 1 tbsp of the syrup to 12 oz beer, or use more or less syrup as desired.

This is a sweet fruity beer, comparable to a wine cooler actually.  If you’re trying to convert someone from wine coolers to beer, this is a great way to start.  Most of the sour characteristics are masked, leaving a mild, smooth, refreshingly pleasant berry flavored drink.

Tip:  Keep the syrup refrigerated and try it in lemonade and some of your favorite cocktail beverages.


Cranberry Water-Lambic

What can I say? Watermelon is my fruit of choice, and Sam Adams’ Cranberry Lambic is my beer of choice.  The two make a great pair.   Tart, sweet, crunchy, melony, and pink with a distinct lambic taste.  Only two problems, watermelon is only available in the summer, and Cranberry Lambic is only available in the winter.  But I managed to keep a few lambics on hand from the several cases that Santa brought me last year.  So excited that Sam Adams finally decided to release the Cranberry Lambic in cases!  If you find yourself without Cranberry Lambics, then no worries, Sierra Nevada’s Pomegranite Wheat and Magic Hat’s Wacko are two worthy substitutes.  Sadly, Smuttynose no longer makes Hanamai, which would be my other choice.  Watermelon works with most light fruity beers, and for me, it’s ideal because the fruit blends well with the beer, and the beer absorbs into the fruit, making it a great drink and good eats!

Cheers beers!

7 Tips to Get Fit and Drink Beer Too

This post is for all of my fellow beer lovers who are trying to attain or retain slim summer swimsuit figures.  I’ve just recently jumped back on the fitness bandwagon myself.  Vacation is over, the weather is warm, the pool is open, and there are lots of outdoor activities to be conquered.  It’s the perfect time to kick the metabolism into high gear.  In fact, to ensure my dedication this time around, I took the plunge and signed up for my first half marathon; but with four months of training ahead, one of my biggest concerns is how do I fit beer into my running program?

Inspiration from the Beer Runner

You may have heard of the BeerRunner?  He’s vowed to run and drink a beer every single day for an entire year.  During this challenge, he’s posted tons of articles and blogs that favor beer and running.  Afterall, it’s not the beer, it’s the lack of activity that’s the problem…right?  Minus the fact that beer is empty calories, it dehydrates, slows metabolism, and causes hangovers.

Aside from that, I suppose beer isn’t really a requirement for me, but it’s certainly a temptation in my house, and not one that’s going away anytime soon.  In fact, I’m pretty sure the outcome wouldn’t be in my favor if it ever came down an ultimatum.  The point is, to be successful it’s important to plan how to handle temptations – as opposed to giving up the temptations altogether.

7 Tips for Beer and Fitness 

So here are a few rules and tips that I follow…

  1. Reward Yourself with Beer.  If (and only if) you workout hard, reward yourself with a beer.  A hard earned beer will taste that much sweeter when earned.
  2. Drink from a Small Glass.  Similar to the small plate = smaller portions tactic, I often drink from small 4 and 6 oz glasses.  Sometimes just a small drink is enough to satisfy the craving.
  3. Split a Beer with Your Training Bud.  Great way to reduce intake and still enjoy some social time.
  4. Add Fruit to Your Beer.  Maybe I’m weird, but I think summer beers are great with fruit added (as discussed in Tis the Season for WaterWeizen).  A full glass with half fruit and half beer reduces intake, provides bulk, and makes it feel as though you’ve consumed more than you have.
  5. Choose Lighter Beers.  No, not “light” beer, unless that’s your preference.  Many craft breweries produce beers that are lower in alcohol and calories, and big on flavor (e.g. 21st Amendment, Stone, DogFish Head, Brooklyn Brewery, and others).  That certainly makes it easier to go lighter.
  6. Drink Lots of Water.  Alcohol is dehydrating, so drink water before, during and after to prevent headaches, hangovers, fluid retention, and other potential excuses for not working out the next day.
  7. Make Training the Priority.  If you know there’s a chance you’ll overindulge, then beforehand, make a promise to yourself that come hell or high watermelon wheat, you WILL get up and workout the next morning.

Need Incentive?  

Take the Beer Runner Challenge.  Start by making a commitment to run at least 1 mile per day for 5 consecutive days.   If 30 people to commit to this challenge, then the Beer Runner will run a beer mile (not as fun as it sounds – look it up).

Pick a race and sign up!  Preferably a race that involves beer – many are supported by local breweries and open taps will await you at the finish line.

Or just find some friends and challenge each other.  The Daily Mile is a great social site that lets you and your friends log every aspect of your training, and track and comment on each other’s progress and statuses.   Hey, everything is social nowadays.  In fact, look me up (SimplP), I need all the motivation I can get!

There’s no time like the present to start getting in shape, and the best part is, you won’t have to give up beer!  With that said, I ran two miles this morning and I haven’t had my beer yet!

Cheers Beers and Happy Running!

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